Ex-etiquette: What’s good ex-etiquette on Father’s Day?

Jann Blackstone

Q: My ex married a surgeon and now has a ton of money. Her husband buys my kid “new” everything and I just can’t compete. My son is constantly talking about him. Father’s Day is coming up and I have to admit I dread it. I’m afraid my son will rather be with him instead of me because there’s so much more stuff over there and it’s just plain more fun. Should I make him come see me or let him stay with his bonusdad? What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: When Mother’s Day and Father’s Day roll around I always get questions about the proper way to share the day. The big question is always how to acknowledge the bonusparent without slighting the Mom or Dad.

The problems begin when adults let their insecurities take over and they worry that their kid may not like them best. There is someone else in their child’s life who cooks them dinner or helps them with their homework and that becomes a threat. They may be working parents and the bonusparent has more time or, the bonusparent may be more organized or clever or stronger or make more money — and of course, none of those things makes a child prefer to be with a bonusparent — children go where they feel loved and can be themselves.

Does that mean that your son doesn’t see that he has more stuff at his mom’s house? Of course he realizes it, but if he has been taught to respect both homes by both parents and bonusparents, he will. When a child feels unsafe or overlooked, that’s when he or she may prefer to be at one home over the other — but it doesn’t make them feel better when they are there. They wish their parent would put in the time, and they often blame themselves because they don’t. “What’s wrong with me because my dad or mom is not around?”

But, I didn’t hear you say you don’t put in the time. I hear you saying you’re feeling insecure because you can’t buy “stuff” and your son talks about his bonusdad all the time. The truth is, if he’s talking that’s actually a good sign. He’s sharing his other life with you. He doesn’t realize it makes you feel inadequate. Don’t make your insecurities your child’s problems. There are lots of things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money. Go fishing, hiking, to a movie, throw the ball around — that’s what he’ll remember. Your time.

Finally, I’m not sure if he asked to stay with his bonusdad on Father’s Day or if that was your insecurity speaking, but, yes you should “make him come see you.” Father’s Day can be shared with his bonusdad, but backing out completely will send the wrong message.